Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Climate change? Not my responsibility?

Estimates by the International Energy Agency and published by The Guardian seem to shatter hopes for the people worldwide that global warming will stay below 2 degrees Celsius. That particular threshold, so says the chief economist of the IEA, is now just a "nice utopia". Such a rise might be nice for England which will see regular 40C summers, and the richer among us will be able to mitigate the effects. But what about the poorest? Will they suffer again because of what we do or fail to do?

Every time I read or hear reports about climate change my heart sinks. Is there really anything we can do as individuals? Isn't this bigger than the single person? I am reminded of a conversation I had with one of my fellow Jesuits in Guyana. The topic was not climate change, but the existence of structures (political, economic, ...) that perpetuate injustice. He said to me something very radical: 'If you live in a system that is directly or indirectly responsible for injustice in the world like for example a system that increases the gap between rich and poor, than you as an individual are co-responsible for the created injustice'. I found that a hard biscuit to swallow, but I think it is true. The same could be said of climate change. We are co-responsible! Not just the politicians, or the big consumers, or whoever else can easily take the blame, but me as an individual who exists in a society which brings about and does not enough to avert climate change.

But what must an individual do? It seems to me that on one level he or she needs to make his or her voice heard. A loud voice that clamours for ecological justice. On a second level this person must live a life that is in accordance with her aspirations and try as much as possible to live sustainable, ready to make sacrifices: Live Simply. On a third level, he or she needs to find a way of living a divine life. Ecologic disaster is not just a consequence of industrialized progress, but it is foremost a consequence of the human being who has lost harmony with God and with Creation. In sum, one can take action in the public, private and religious sphere and take positive responsibility for what's happening to our world. Such a way of approaching the problem gives me hope, there where hope is becoming very scarce.

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